The sound of laughter hung high in the chalk-dust filled air. Smells of vanilla and sugar blew in the cool breeze while uninterrupted sun warmed my face. My son bustled back and forth from activity to activity, barley being able to keep still as he explored, learned and played.
Downtown Bangor was alive the first Saturday of May. Not with the usual lunch rush crowd or after-hours bar scene; but instead with children and families all enjoying the 4th annual Kid Central Fest.
The premise for the event is for the businesses of downtown to offer free activities geared towards children and families that have a tie in with the theme of their business. In Bangor literally dozens of stores and establishments get involved.
Kid Central Fest is the brain child of Bangor City Counselor and Director of BangPop, Gibran Graham. Though the event started in 2011, this was my first attending I have to say I was blown away by all the families I saw. There was something fun to do in almost every corner of downtown. So recently I asked Gibran a few questions about his event.
What made you start this event?
“A few things came together for me that made me want to create this event. First was that the first Saturday in May is National Free Comic Book Day, and as director of BangPop I wanted to do something that complimented this. Also the downtown area of the city I grew up in was such a huge part of my life growing up, and I noticed that in Bangor, there weren’t a lot of kids coming down town. This event was a chance to show that there was more than just the Maine Discovery Museum and for kids to explore and figure out what else there was.”
How has the event grown over the past few years?
“We had roughly 400 people the first year and then 400-600 kids plus their families the second year. Last year we had over 600 and this year we grew to over 800. Also we have been able to expand the number of businesses and activities each year, including some non-profits who may not have a downtown space, but want to be involved in the day.”
Why do you think it has been such a success?
” I think that things with kids, done well enough and explained well help to make them successful. Having it be free to the public makes it accessible. Also the weather has been good each year so far. Finally I think that because downtown continues to grow and thrive it help events like this and others.
The point of the article was not so much for me to talk about the event itself, but that every town should try and have something similar. I think it is great to see local businesses out doing something unique for children, and for families to have the opportunity to explore and play together in their hometown.
We were able to make cannoli do silk-screen printing, color West Market Square with chalk, make ice cream, play with a river simulation, dig for fossils and more. Other activities included a costume contest, car of the future drawing, story reading and a lot more. There were activities for kids of all ages (and I would argue parents too).
How great would it be to see events like this in every town?